Risk Taking, Reflection and Rewards: 3 years at the NSWM

When is the last time you tried something you were afraid of? For a long time, I avoided or passed up opportunities because of fear of failure. Whether it was preparing a picture for an art contest in elementary school and then not submitting it or wanting to run for a leadership position in middle school but not running because I questioned my popularity to get the role. I have many examples such as this throughout my life span of missed opportunities. I have set my sights on many things from childhood to adulthood, but didn’t always go for them. I was too afraid to take the risk and too afraid of the end result.

Three years ago, I was presented an opportunity to apply for The Network for Social Work Management. At this point in my career, I knew that I wanted to ‘eventually’ be a director, but didn’t know how I would get there. I knew that I was lacking skill wise in some areas, so I wanted to add these tools to my tool kit before putting myself out there so-to-speak. I thought I had to have every tool to even receive consideration.

When the opportunity to interview for the Network came to my attention, I admittedly 1. Had never heard of the Network and 2. Questioned myself and my abilities. I worried that my lack of knowledge or experience as an Executive Director and of Nonprofit Management would result in failure. “I’m a Social Worker! I’m not good at math so I thought. Budgets, huh?” I almost turned down the opportunity to interview. I was entertaining not even trying.

After much back and forth and some consultation with friends, I decided that I had to try. How could I say I want something, get an opportunity, and even consider turning it down?

October 1st  marked my three year anniversary as Executive Director of The Network for Social Work Management! A role I almost passed up became the best job I’ve ever had in addition to the most challenging. Working with high risk parolees is a piece of cake in comparison to running the Network, but I love it. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process and the potential of those within our profession.

In the span of three years, I have truly come to believe that social workers are equipped with the essential skills to lead. Yes, we need to become more competent in some areas (Ahem…Management!), but much of what we learn in our degree programs positions us for success. Who better to do it than a Social Worker?

I have had the privilege to watch this organization grow from hundreds to well over 10,000. We are international and have members in over 42 countries and chapters in Uganda, Chile, Mongolia, China, and Nepal. This past summer we had our first international training in Beijing. The world is watching and taking notice!

We’ve rebranded throughout the last few years and have had not one, but two new websites in addition to improved marketing, branding, and overall communication with our members thanks to technology! (Have you added us on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter?)

Our conferences are getting bigger and better and our Network is becoming more diverse in age, race, and experience. We’ve also had the opportunity to feature many of you as Monday Morning Managers in addition to having you participate as mentors, fellows, mentees, and in our executive circle, emerging leader institute, and research to practice institute. We even have our own week now, Social Work Management Week in addition to a certificate program.

I say all of this to say that although it may be scary and there may be a variety of factors that may cause us to hold back, sometimes, most times it’s better to take the risk. I never thought I’d be here and doing the things I’ve done- we’ve done, but I am. Social Work prepared me for this.  Whatever you have your sights on whether you’re an emerging leader or a seasoned leader, I hope you find the confidence to go for it.  I am proud to lead The Network for Social Work Management and excited to see where we all can take the Network together. Thank you all for this opportunity!

Lakeya Cherry - Executive Director, NSWM

Lakeya Cherry, MSSW is the Executive Director of the Network for Social Work Management, an international membership organization dedicated to strengthening leadership in health and human services. Under her leadership the Network has grown globally and introduced new, innovative programming that meets the needs of social work leaders everywhere. At her previous potion with 2U, Inc., a technology company partnering with prestigious universities to place degree programs online, Lakeya was a senior regional field manager for the University at Southern California School of Social Work’s online Master of Social Work program. Cherry was in charge of spearheading national partnerships and managing field education agency development initiatives. She has also held a variety of direct service positions in the nonprofit sector and volunteers during her free time.

She earned her Master of Science of Social Work from Columbia University and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Legal Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Lakeya also holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Executive Leadership from the National Human Services Assembly in collaboration with The Fund Raising School at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, the Executive Education Program at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, and ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation.

Wednesday NetWORK 08/2018


Are You Sitting At The Table Or Watching
From The Sidelines?

The Wednesday NetWORK – Meet the new email newsletter from NSWM curated just for you the first Wednesday of every month.

In order to sit at the table, there are many things involved. We at NSWM want to help you get there whether it’s featuring organizations looking for top talent such as yourself or providing you resume and interviewing tips to get you the management job you desire. The NetWORK will be everything work-related from job posts to resources on making a first impression to career development.

Featured Articles for Job Seekers & Employers

5 Ways to Gain More Influence and Impact

How to Turn Your Job Interview Into A Job Offer

Working Strategies: Three sizes fit all — cover letter templates

These are the six things the best mentors never do

Victor started in the 1960s with a group of people who were committed to providing an alternative to the state mental institutions for children who were under 18. Today, half a century or so later, Victor has offices throughout California, serves all age groups and is comprised of three agencies, Victor Community Support Services, Victor Treatment Centers, and Rosemary Children’s Services.

In addition to being the only organization in San Diego whose mission is dedicated to serving women, children and families infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, Christie’s Place’s expertise and success in providing multidisciplinary trauma-informed treatment that integrates Peer Navigators has earned both local and national recognition.


E-Mail us at info@socialworkmanager.org for more information

Resources for Integrated Care

Social work managers play a critical role in leading high performing health and human service organizations. These leaders develop a vision for social impact, inspire staff, and engage their organization in meaningful quality improvement. As we reflect on Mental Health Awareness month, we recognize that social work managers have the potential to make a significant impact in the lives of their clients with behavioral health needs. Such efforts are especially impactful for individuals who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, as they are more likely to have complex behavioral health and physical needs and face other social challenges.

Resources for Integrated Care has developed the following resources that may be of use to leaders in the field of social work in their efforts — and the efforts of their teams — to promote coordination and the principles of person-centered care:

1. What To Expect When You’re Self-Managing: A Client Handout For Behavioral Health Providers (in both English and Spanish)

2. Tip Sheets for Navigators (in both English and Spanish)

3. Peer Support Videos and Tip Sheets

4. Self-Management Support Action Plan Selection Guide

5. Behavioral Health Integration Capacity Assessment Tool

6. Behavioral Health Navigation Organizational Assessment Tool

We hope that these are useful and invite you to visit Resources for Integrated Care (https://www.resourcesforintegratedcare.com/) for additional resources.

A Day Trip to Meet Leaders and their Agencies in Tijuana, México.

Doing more with Less through Disruptive Leadership: A Day Trip to Meet Leaders and their Agencies in Tijuana, México

Join us on a pre-conference trip to Tijuana, Mexico, and have an international experience on disruptive leadership. We are opening the opportunity for 25 people to join us on a day trip to Tijuana on Wednesday, June 13th.

You will have the opportunity to visit local agencies working in a variety of fields, meet with program directors and staff, learn more about the needs and challenges of this binational border region, and the creative and disruptive ways collaborations and interventions come to fruition. During your trip you will also have an opportunity to learn more about Tijuana and the border region, visit some sites of importance and be treated to a wonderful lunch, all while networking and building relationships with your colleagues.

Starting on the San Ysidro/ Tijuana Border US side we will meet with our guides/hosts and walk across to Tijuana where our bus will be waiting for us to take us on our trip. We have a planned start time of 9:00 am and we will be back by 4:00 pm. This allows for time so that you may join the opening reception dinner at Old Town that day if registered for it.

Your main point of contact is Alejandro Hierro and Claudia Llamas. Feel free to  email us at nswmsdchapter@gmail.com. See additional information below.

Required: A Passport, visa permit, and liability waiver. Day trip visas have no cost and do not need to be returned when coming back into the US.

Miscellaneous: Comfortable clothes, some cash in case they want to buy, donate to the agencies.

We hope you can join us!

TJ Trip Schedule

7:00 a.m.- 7:15 a.m.- Meet at Coffee Bean in San Ysidro

7:15 a.m. – 7:45 a.m. – Go to San Ysidro Border

7:45 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. – Commute

8:00 a.m. – 8:45 a.m. – Playas

  • Presentation & Q&A at Binational Friendship Garden by Daniel Watman (30 min)

8:45 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. – Commute

9:15 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. – Hospital Infantil las Californias

10:00 a.m. – 10:20 a.m. – Commute

10:20 a.m.- 11:15 a.m. – Fundacion Castro Limon

11:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. – Commute

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Lunch

12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. – Commute

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.- Panel at DIF Camino Verde and tour

1:00 p.m. – 1:20 p.m. – DIF Tour

Panelists (20 min each):

  • 1:20 p.m. – 1:40 p.m. – Create Purpose by Nicolas Sandoval
  • 1:40 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Fundacion Gaia by Darinka Carballo
  • 2: 00 p.m. – 2:20 p.m. – Widaker Peace and Development Innitiative by Eriberto Garcia (TBC)
  • 2:20 p.m. – 2:40 p.m. – Fundacion Julio Cesar Chavez

2:40 p.m. – 3:00 p. m. – Q & A

3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. – Go in the bus to go back

3:15 p.m. – 3:40 p.m. – Commute

4:00 p.m. – At San Ysidro


The cost per person is of $95 and includes transportation in Tijuana to visit the agencies, presentations and Q&A with directors, live translation/interpretation and preset lunch at a restaurant).

Payment is due on May 7, 2018, to secure travel fees. Feel free to email us with any questions at nswmsdchapter@gmail.com or call Claudia Llamas at (619) 772-7322.

Email us to let us know your interest in attending and pay through PayPal: PAYPAL.ME/NSWMSDCHAPTER

We will meet on the US side of the Chaparral border crossing as a group and all walk into Mexico together. Border customs are used to getting groups and all they need is us to just be patient while they fill out the visa forms.

You will be dropped back off at the Chaparral border entry.

Lunch is included with 1 drink.  You are free to get anything else not on the set menu but it will be at your own cost.  If you have any meal preferences/ restrictions (gluten free, vegan, meat, chicken, fish) we can try to accommodate, but we must be informed at time of registration.

General travel info map link
San Ysidro Border meeting point  The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Camino De La Plaza, San Diego, CA https://goo.gl/maps/PjbJSJNgY5J2
San ysidro Parking options  Most parking will run from 6 to 20 dlls for all day parking.  Please do not park at the outlet malls or you will risk being towed away. https://goo.gl/maps/bP6RgpvJ5Xx
San Ysidro Trolley to Meeting Point You can take the 8 to 12 minute walk or board one of the shuttles that will drop you off a few meters away from our meeting point https://goo.gl/maps/8A4vpmTzTM82
Tijuana End Point  Bus will drop us off right at the Chaparral Border entrance into US https://goo.gl/maps/mai8aNtNuQF2
Possible agencies & panels to visit  

Create Purpose

PANEL Works with Orphanages creating STEAM programs
Fundacion Gaia PANEL Variety of programs in Immigration, at risk youth, homeless, environmnet, animal rights
DIF comunitario PANEL Modern Community center in low income community
CRIT Children Hospital Site
Castro Limon Site Children with Cancer
Hospital Psiquiatrico Site
Possible guests assistants for networking/ PR COLEF

Fundacion Castro Limon

  • Website: http://fundacioncastrolimon.org/?la=us
  • Synopsis:Non-profit association that seeks funds to provide comprehensive care to children with cancer. They provide pediatric oncological services, long term hospitalizations, therapeutic/ psychological services for patients & their families, case management, outreach and non denominational religious services; among others.

Hospital Infantil de las Californias

  • Website: http://hospitalinfantil.org/
  • Synopsis: Childrens’ hospital providing health services to children from newborns to 18 years of age, regardless of their socioeconomic level, race or religion. It has 26 pediatric specialties, short-stay surgeries, pharmacy, x-rays, as well as educational programs focused on nutrition and prevention.

DIF Comunitario Camino Verde

  • Website: None
  • Synopsis: Community center run by local Child & Family Welfare Services that provides a “Third Space” for community engagement, recreational activities, workshops & classes to teach skills & trades and health & wellness services. Part of a larger community redevelopment project in the neighborhood of Camino Verde. Design of space was made to LEED specifications of sustainability.

Create Purpose

  • Website: https://createpurpose.org/
  • Synopsis: Create Purpose applies the proven methodology of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) using Project Based Learning principles within Tijuana orphanages. This approach teaches children life skills that help them overcome poverty and pursue their purpose.

Fundacion Gaia

  • Website:https://www.facebook.com/gaiasteam/
  • Synopsis: Community based Non profit run by local volunteers from many professions & walks of life that seek to provide sustainable support to vulnerable sectors of our community. “Fundacion Gaia” currently has 10 projects serving a wide range of needs in the region; from immigration issues to animal rights, Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) to name a few.

Binational Friendship Garden (Friends of Friendship Park)

  • Website:http://www.friendshippark.org/garden
  • Synopsis: As we work toward a truly binational park, the Friends of Friendship Park propose the restoration of unrestricted public access to three locations: the historic Monument 258, the beach below Monument Mesa, and the Binational Friendship Garden of Native Plants. The garden’s dual purpose is to create a space where people can make friends through the border wall and to promote the native flora of our region.

Social Work Management Week: A Day In The Life of a Social Work Manager

Short Bio.

Thenera Bailey is the President/CEO of the SISGI Group, a consulting and research organization dedicated to providing strategic resources to mission driven work led by individuals, groups and organizations. Thenera has an accomplished career as a consultant, trainer and technical assistance provider to programs, organizations, government agencies, nonprofits, corporations, schools and school districts. Her clients have included AARP, The Corporation for National and Community Service, American Heart Association and the Kettering Foundation. She is a social entrepreneur and has worked to develop several new social change organizations and initiatives throughout her career. She has a Masters in Social Work, a Master of Arts and she is currently completing a Doctorate of Business Administration with a focus on Strategy and Innovation.

What was your first job as a manger?

Manager of the Maryland State Mentoring Resource Center overseeing the training and technical assistance for mentoring programs across the state of Maryland. I oversaw a team of training consultants that trained mentors, mentees and program staff on best practices in mentoring and developed resources to support youth development related to mentoring, for programs across the state. As an initiative funded by the state, I worked to assure that resources and trainings occurred across the state.

We often hear that the transition from frontline staff to manager can be challenging. What was the transition like for you? Are there any tips or words of advice you can give those who may either be experiencing the transition now or will do so in the near future?

I had a great supervisor who mentored me into the role before she left the organization. If you don’t have access to a strong manager as a role model, it is hard to know how to be a good manager early in your career or when you transition into a management role. My first suggestion is to seek out a mentor to assist you in better understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Figuring that out before you are supervising a team or program, will help you be more successful in your leadership. Also always be open to learning from every experience and seek out training and conferences that will expose you to current information and new skills. If you have been out of school for awhile, your staff that are recent graduates may have more knowledge about new methods or innovative ways to create social change. Remain open to learn from those you supervise, as expertise comes in all forms. Finally, use conferences and training events to stay connected to peers in similar roles or working on similar issues. No manager has all the answers and sometimes your peer network of other managers will be essential to helping you find a solution or to address a management problem. I stay in contact with several executive directors and program leaders from throughout my career, as it can be lonely at the head of an organization and it is great to bounce strategies off someone who understands your perspective of the work.

Did you have prior training in management and administration before you stepped into that position?

My MSW concentration was in Management and Community Organizing through the University of Maryland so I had a basic foundation of best practices for good program management and administration. However, no theory or textbook can prepare you fully for the role. Assisting my supervisor in managing tasks and seeking out opportunities to lead projects independently, were the best way to improve my skills prior to taking my first management role.

Tell us a little bit about what you do in your current role? What's the most challenging aspect? What's the most rewarding aspect?

As President/CEO of the SISGI Group, I lead a global organization that provides consulting, training, awareness and research services to mission driven organizations. I work directly with clients providing consulting services and serve as a trainer/facilitator on a variety of topics across the country. We also have a nonprofit division that has several programs to increase the capacity of the sector and I oversee the core programming. As the founder, I have been intimately involved in all of our program design, major staff hires and strategy decisions since we launched. As a location independent organization with staff working around the country and several programs operating simultaneously, it is challenging to make sure we maintain a company culture that utilizes innovation to stay at the forefront of client projects. I have to trust my team and constantly adjust my leadership to match the changing environment. As a consulting group that supports the social sector, we are impacted by changes that nonprofits and government agencies experience due to changes in the federal administration, funding and societal pressures. It is important that we stay connected to our mission and on top of how we can support these organizations through the constant change in the sector. The most rewarding part of my current role is to see something you imagined turn into something tangible that produces real results from your efforts. For example, I have always been passionate about the need for there to be more macro field placements for graduate Social Work students. We have had an internship in our nonprofit division since our founding and created the program to address a need expressed by our clients, for strong managers with practical experience and the limited leadership pipeline for preparing managers for the social sector. Though we accept students from all disciplines, the majority of our over 100 program alums were MSW students when they were placed with our organization. It is incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to help increase the number of strong managers in the social sector and to pass on the mentoring I received to future leaders. Many of our alums are now social work managers and I encourage them to serve as field instructors when possible to continue to spread the opportunity for macro field experiences and mentoring.

How does your organization find time to celebrate social work managers?

We do a “Where are they now” social media campaign to highlight the next career step for our former interns and the management work they are leading in the sector. We also lead a social change career series, that highlights the professional journey of individuals working in leadership roles for social good, many of which are social worker managers. We also use our social media and research blog to celebrate the profession.

Social Work Management Week: An Interview with Agnes Nzomene

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What attracted you to the Social Work Profession?

A: My name is Agnes Nzomene and I was born in Cameroon, Central Africa. I am the 7th sibling out of 11 children. I came to the US in 2008 to be with my husband who was working in the U.S. Up until I moved to the States, I worked in my country as a graphic designer for 10 years. When I first moved to the U.S., I spent a lot of my time at the International Institute of New Jersey (IINJ), an organization that was helping refugee asylum seekers in their resettlement in the U.S. I found comfort there because I was able to find people I could speak French with, since it is my first language, and I was not speaking English at the time. My experience at the IINJ was what introduced me to the world of social services. It inspired me to go back to school and study what I believe is really my call: “Social Work”. I earned three degrees in a little over three years. In May 2013, I earned my Associates degree in Human Services, followed by my Bachelors degree in Social Work with a Minor in Non-profit and Public Administration in May 2015, and my Master’s degree in Social Work (Management and Policy), and my area of emphasis in International Social Work, May 2016.  

Q: Where are you at on your career path? Are you in school? Do you have a job?

A:  I am currently working at Catholic Charities in New York as an education and employment trainer. I am also volunteering with the Jersey City Immigration Commission Affairs where I read and review policy to ensure that the policies being implemented are benefiting the population they were designed for, educate the immigrant population, and also advocate for the vulgarization of these policies to immigrants.

Q: How many years of management experience did you have before you began the International Mentoring program?

A: I was a manager for 10 years when I was working in graphic design.  Now, as a Human Services professional, when I was in my MSW program, I was responsible for recruiting and coordinating volunteers for the NSWM New Jersey Chapter. Also, I founded a nonprofit, No Child in Tears and currently serve as it’s President.  That particular journey has helped provide me with key managerial experience.

Q: What attracted you to the NSWM International Mentoring Program?

A: Well, I was first attracted to the Network because it was the only organization that really gave meaning to the part of the profession I was studying in school. It was the only organization that I could find dedicated to the professional development of social work managers. Many people think social work is only about direct services (or clinical social work), but I feel strongly that macro practice needs to be highlighted. When I found out about the International Mentoring Program, I thought it would be a great platform and experience for me, now that I had just graduated my MSW.  I also really liked the idea of being able to meet with someone who really cares about my growth and development as a social worker manager. I’ve really enjoyed my experience with my mentor (Lorraine Marais) up until this point. I feel so comfortable reaching out to her with any questions and not only that, but our relationship is really a reciprocal one where we are both able to reach out and share our knowledge along the way. She encourages me in doing more research, and I feel that I am at the right place. Before being a part of the NSWM Mentoring Program, I can sincerely say I had doubts about my path of studying social work management. There were moments where I really thought maybe I didn’t know what I was doing, or maybe it was just a name and fantasy. Even my coming to the 2016 NSWM Annual Management Conference in California was out of curiosity. Despite having graduated with my Masters, the challenges I went through during my internships were always present in my mind.

Q: What topics would you say you’ve discussed with your mentor?

A: Wow. We’ve discuss so many! We meet and discuss different topics every 2 weeks! In the beginning, we discussed how to create a personal mission and vision. We have reviewed and discussed the Network’s Human Service Management Competencies. We have spoken together about the profession itself and the values associated with it. We have discussed empowerment models and how I implement them where I work. We have also talked about some of the spiritual aspects of social work and the importance of exercising emotional intelligence and this is just to name the least! I’m sure there are many more topics to come!

Q: What has been the most beneficial aspect of the program, so far?

A: Honestly, the entire experience. I feel like I always have a takeaway at the end of our conversations. Either I gain a new perspective on something I already know much about, or I learn something completely new. I feel really lucky to be in this program and I am very thankful to be paired with the mentor I have.  

Q: What would you tell those who are thinking about applying for the International Mentoring Program?

A:  The schedule is flexible. My mentor has been of great support for me. She really understands me. She treats me like a professional and really believes in me. Just knowing how much other mentor programs cost, I feel like this program is a gift that does not come around too often.  I think it’s a program more social worker managers should benefit from.

Q: What are your next steps? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: Well, In November 2012 before I earned my associate’s degree in May 2013, I started a nonprofit called No Child in Tears Inc. No Child in Tears’ mission is to promote literacy, uplift the spirit of the youths, empower women, and help reduce maternal mortality. It is a 501(c)(3) incorporated in the United States with operations abroad (but right now we only working in rural areas in Cameroon). I hope to continue working to grow this non-profit by expanding our activities to other developing countries in 5 years. I would also like to go back to school (hopefully and will be accepted at the University of Southern California) to write my dissertation on a very particular topic that I am passionate about, and earn my PhD. I would also like to be a mentor one day.  Who knows, maybe I will come back to the Network and serve as a mentor for others passionate about the macro aspect of social work like me in 5 years!

Maddy Day, Director of Outreach and Training for the Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University

Number of years in management: 5 years

Tell us about your path to management:

Prior to obtaining my MSW I worked in the field of child welfare in both supervisory positions and program management positions. After continuing my education, I became focused on program development and was able to start a campus support program for students from foster care at the University of Washington. Then in 2012, I was accepted to take on the role as Director of Outreach for the Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University. That was my first real manager role as I oversaw the division of outreach and training. I would say that my pathway was paved with experience in program development and supervisor roles for small groups of graduate students, which has led to the larger purview I have today.

What leadership qualities do you find to be most effective in reaching your organizational or career goals? 

I would say that servant leadership encapsulates good leadership. It’s about capturing a vision and working alongside my team. I believe that strong leaders spend a lot of time self-reflecting and refining their own practice. Strong leaders are those who do a lot of listening from both an outsider and insider perspective of their team.  It is important to always create a space for feedback. I have a strong value for integrity and authenticity and I try to guide all my decision making around these values.

How do you motivate your team members? 

I think that people are most motivated when they do work they are passionate about and when they feel they have the strength and support to achieve the work. I like to assign projects that align with the natural strengths of my team members, but also stretch them so that they experience that learning curve. I remind my team that when doing the work we do, no one is alone, and if and when there is stress, it is no one person’s stress. I believe that motivation comes from having a support system that allows you to fail and feel safe doing so.  If you feel that it’s okay to fail then you’re not afraid to take risks and there is so much important growth that comes from the process.

Is there a leader or mentor who has inspired you along your professional journey?

I was fortunate to have a great Master of Social Work program with many great professors while at the University of Washington. One is Dr. Bill Etnyer, he was a wonderful mentor who helped me understand how you fold micro skills into being a professional in a supervisory capacity. Another wonderful mentor is my current supervisor, Dr. Yvonne Unrau who has been a critical part of my growth, both personally and professionally. She lives and breathes work-life balance and has helped me understand how to balance all of the parts of who I am within the profession of social work.  She has encouraged me to be the best version of myself and to be expansive in all that I have to offer, but also reminded me of the importance of having a full personal life.

What are you reading and/or following now (e.g. book, blog, social media groups, etc.)?

I have read everything that Brene Brown has written so I highly recommend any book by her, The Gifts of Imperfection is the one I most often find myself going back to. A blog I recently found is called nonprofitwithballs.com.  It is insightful and validating especially as someone who is leading collective impact work in the non-profit world.

How has networking impacted your career?

Networking is everything. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for networking. I think networking for me is one of the most critical parts of my success and of the work I do when running my program. Networking is about building social capital, when you have it, you are a stronger social worker because you have more to offer. Networking and building social capital is not just for oneself, but also can be thought of as a resource to share with those that have not had as much time or resources to build their own network. Because my work is so intersectional, I have an extensive network with partners across various sectors and disciplines. There are so many perspectives that help enhance the work I do and I leverage all of these connections to help the people I serve.

What advice do you have for those beginning their professional journey or who are already in leadership positions? 

For those at the beginning their professional journey, I would say network and make the most of those connections. Even though the world is big, our field can sometimes feel small.  You’ll often come across the same people throughout your journey, so make sure you connect with intention. It’s important to ask what you want and to not shy away from any goal you have.  For those already in leadership positions, continue to find ways that challenge you and reflect how willing you are to be vulnerable both with those you serve and those who are part of your team. Vulnerability is what keeps you humble, as a leader, I sometimes worry being out of touch with the street-level work. I think it’s important to be humble and listen to what it feels like to the ones we serve so that we can be the best leaders possible.

Do you have an initiative or project you would like to tell our readers about?

In my work, I directly oversee the Fostering Success Michigan Statewide Initiative.  It is a collective impact initiative working to increase access to success in post-secondary education and professional careers for young adults with experience in foster care.  We are one of a handful of programs in the country and we are passionate about increasing the success rate of young adults who have been through the foster care system by providing them with a supported pathway to and through post-secondary education. I believe the more awareness there is to this issue, the better our young people who experience foster care will be. I am always open to taking about the issue and wish more states would start such an initiative. I am very proud of the program that we created and the work we are leading in Michigan. For those who wish to learn more, please visit our website at  http://fosteringsuccessmichigan.com.

What do you wish you had known before you started your career?

I wish I would have known it was okay to say “I don’t know” and that people will respect you more if you are honest with them. I spent a lot of time early in my career trying to figure everything out on my own. Now, I know the importance of being transparent and asking for help.

Share a mistake or failure that provided the most growth in your career. 

An important lesson I’ve learned is that you simply cannot go at it alone and you cannot create change until people working with you are ready to be a part of that change. I mistakenly believed that by creating a program, service systems would quickly improve, but that is not how it works. I have learned to be patient with the process. I want to improve outcomes for young people because they deserve to have good outcomes and stronger systems, but we need to also realize that systems are run by humans and you can’t force people to do things they are not able or equipped to do. I have learned to have so much more grace with my colleagues and myself. I truly believe we all intend to do our best.

To contact Maddy Day for any inquiries please contact her through  …

Email: maddy.day@wmich.edu
Website: FosteringSuccessMichigan.com

*The views expressed herein are those solely of the author and not necessarily endorsed by the Network for Social Work Management.

Ben Sher, Director of the Office of Global and Lifelong Learning at the Silver School of Social Work

Number of years in management: More than 10 years

Tell us about your path to management:

Because I was a Reduced Residency student who was using my job as my internship experience, and I was working to train social workers placing people with mental illness into housing, I was “tracked” at Columbia for the Social Work Administration practice area.  At first, I was disappointed by this because I thought my heart was in direct clinical practice.  When my classes started to teach me about program development, macro interventions, program evaluation and financial models, I gained a strong interest in administrative social work practice.  The idea of running programs and influencing policy at a larger level became important to me.  I have found that I can always supplement my administrative work with clinical practice (and have).  I felt that this path to management has opened more doors for me as a professional.

What leadership qualities do you find to be most effective in reaching your organizational or career goals? 

I would say Greenleaf’s model of Servant Leadership resonates deeply with me.  I respond to the idea that we are here to serve those we lead, and to empower them to be strong leaders themselves.  I believe strongly that a leader cannot lead without people who believe in mission and vision, and have tried to engender that in the leadership roles I have had throughout my career.  I have asked my team to define what the mission or vision means specifically for them, and how they contribute to its existence.  Mission statements can be slogans on a wall unless people really know how they are making them living things.

How do you motivate your team members? 

A lot of direct praise and encouragement for the things they do.  I would rather catch people doing right than focus on what they do wrong.  Yes, sometimes we have to talk about the challenges, but I see these as opportunities for growth rather than as problems.  I want my team to feel that their voice is valuable in decisions; I may have to make the final call, but I know the best decisions are made in context of the team and not by myself.  I also buy a lot of little things for the office, like food.  Perhaps this is trite, yet it tells my staff I am thinking of them if I pass a new bakery or eatery and pick up something for them.

Is there a leader or mentor who has inspired you along your professional journey?

“One who will always stand out to me is the first person in my management life who took a greater interest in my development than just as a manager.  This person really wanted to see me grow in my role, and offered me a lot of opportunities to interact and access stretch activities that honed my presentation, organizational and professional skills.  I still hear this person’s voice in my head when faced with a leadership question and ask myself, “”What would they do?””  Usually the answer I get is the right one and guides me to success in my work. Another person was my field instructor.  This person taught me “”there is process in everything””.  Keeping this in mind has helped me negotiate many administrative challenges. For example, it helps me understand why someone may act a certain way in a meeting.”

How has networking impacted your career?

Networking is essential in management.  I would say that all my job changes occurred because of the networks I had made.  I know sometime people feel this is an area of discomfort for them, yet I think networking can come in many shapes and sizes.  Even establishing a relationship with a colleague who does similar work to you in another setting is a network.  They might have ideas and know people they are in touch with who can assist you when you need it.  Practice and slowly brining yourself out of your comfort zone (and rewarding yourself for doing so) is a great way to start networking.  A lot of people talk about how hard it is to network – so we are all in the same boat, so to speak.

What advice do you have for those beginning their professional journey or who are already in leadership positions? 

Ask for help.  Sometimes we think because we are placed in a certain role, we are expected to know everything.  The learning curve for something new is about six months to a year.  Make it your business to find the right people who have answers to your questions.  This may not always be the person you directly report to.  It could be the administrative assistant who has been with the company for 20 years, or the person who works in the office right next to you.  And keep your supervisor informed.  Let them know what you are up to, even if they don’t ask for it regularly.  Perhaps a weekly email summarizing your activities, or a quick memo.  That way they know what you are doing in your role.

Do you have an initiative or project you would like to tell our readers about?

I am excited to be in a place now where I can offer my services as a trainer and consultant around workplace safety.  I have been passionate about this issue for 15 years, and now have the opportunity to help organizations see why it is crucial to have policies and procedures that keep their employees safe.  It is great to use my experiential learning (both good and bad) to help organizations to consider why this is a crucial area of success to their bottom line.  The ROI is that safe and satisfied workers are more productive people.

What do you wish you had known before you started your career?

That it is okay to apply a business model to one’s career in the helping profession.  I think too often human service professionals think they are doing a disservice to their clientele if they focus on financial security for themselves.  I think we can do both – help people and still make sure we are living a comfortable life.  I know this sounds antithetical to our practice values, yet I also think it fits into the idea that if we as professionals are not in a good place, we cannot be in a good place for our clients, whoever they are.  I DO think that once we have established financial security, we do have a responsibility to use it wisely and to give back where and whenever we can.  To do anything else would be unethical.

Share a mistake or failure that provided the most growth in your career. 

The biggest mistake for me came in when I did the opposite of what I said above about advice to new professionals.  I was feeling overwhelmed in a leadership role that was growing in responsibility very quickly.  I did not tell my boss and this ultimately ended up hurting my health.  I have learned now that I should keep my supervisor in the loop about things and not believe that I always have all the answers.  I think this experience really shaped my understanding of how crucial teamwork is in the human services profession.

 To contact Benjamin Sher for any inquiries please contact him through Linkedin …

*The views expressed herein are those solely of the author and not necessarily endorsed by the Network for Social Work Management.